Some of the most narrative artworks are those inspired by great literature. In his book, The Storyteller of Agbarha- Otor: Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Visual Tales, Dozie Igweze tells the story that inspired Onobrakpeya’s, Adventures of Akara Ogun.
This artwork, The Adventures of Akara Ogun, was adapted from a passage in the book, The Forest of a Thousand Daemons, written in Yoruba by D. O. Fagunwa and translated to English by Wole Soyinka. This was one of several artworks Onobrakpeya adapted from literary sources. His favourite writers in this regard were D. O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola and Wole Soyinka. Many of the stories these writers wrote were folktales brimming with imaginary beings who existed in our world and other worlds invisible to us and performed amazing magical feats. These stories had frenzied demons, wise hunters, enchanted flutes and magical children. Everything was possible. Normal laws simply did not apply.
The artwork explores the adventures of Akara Ogun, a famous hunter with magical powers. In the story, the king sends Akara Ogun and six fellow hunters to a fantastic distant kingdom called Mount Langbodo to learn the secret of peaceful and progressive living among people.
The group of brave hunters battle many antagonists on their journey, using their magical powers to defeat an assortment of villains. Eventually, they reach Mount Langbodo where the king advises them on the best way to mold a progressive society.
The journey back is more perilous though and some of the hunters fall prey to the magical villains. Three of the seven hunters make it home, only to realise that many years have passed in the kingdom since they went on their mission and that everyone they know has now grown old. The, by now, old king has no recollection of having sent them on a mission many years ago. With some prodding though, the king recollects the mission and happily accepts the wisdom they have returned with.
The central image in the artwork is of the hunters greeting the king of Mount Langbodo, an image that at once reflects the success of the journey, and the new and important learning ahead. The other areas of the artwork explore some of the battles the hunters, led by Akara Ogun, fought and won on their journey.
Adapted excerpt from The Storyteller of Agbarha-Otor: Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Visual Tales by Dozie Igweze. Dozie Igweze is the owner of The Hourglass Gallery in Lagos.